THE ENGINEERING OF DEMISE
By Don Signer President
Fremont and Newark, California
June 2013 note to readers seeking information on IRS harassment and TIGTA/FBI cover-ups: To go directly to the summary, click on IRS/TIGTA/FBI tab at the top of this page.
This Home Page is an abbreviated version of the Full Home Page, which may be viewed by clicking here. In the following, I summarize the events that led up to two Internal Revenue Service (IRS) audits, focusing on GM’s motive for secretly initiating the audits to help it achieve its goal of acquiring privately-owned dealerships for factory control of the San Francisco East Bay market, as well as current lawsuits resulting from that takeover.
I reported the apparent GM/IRS conspired harassment acts to the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration (TIGTA) in 2010, which resulted in a TIGTA cover-up of which I obtained documentation in June 2011. I subsequently reported the IRS harassment and TIGTA cover-up to the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI,) as well as to Treasury Secretary Geithner, U. S. Attorney General Eric Holder, and President Obama in 2011 and 2012. I have certified mail delivery confirmations for all top government officials.
Introduction: Mine is the story of what started as the American Dream. In 1980, I built a new General Motors dealership business and facility in Fremont, literally from the ground up, and then followed it with many years of successful operation and excellent relations with factory personnel. In 1995 I built a second new facility as required by Cadillac, on property in Newark designated by GM. Then, beginning in 1997, General Motors (GM) attempted a factory takeover of GM dealerships on my street (expanding later to most of the East Bay); a prototype model for a subsequent ill-fated national initiative called GM Retail Holdings. My disinterest in selling my hard-earned business was met with GM’s singling me out by depriving me of the GMC truck line, which it intended to be housed across the United States with the declining Buick brand for dealership viability. In the mid-2000′s, GM augmented this virtual strangulation of my business with multiple acts of harassment in an attempt to induce me to concede to its wishes. Extensive evidence indicates that the two IRS audits I received, the first ever on each the dealership corporation and me personally, were among GM’s many acts of harassment.
After I survived more than a decade of GM’s efforts to get my franchises, GM’s 2009 TARP-supported bankruptcy failure allowed it to finally succeed in taking my franchises with the support of the Presidential Task Force on the Auto Industry, which operated within the U. S. Treasury Department. GM then gave my franchises to its factory-funded operator virtually next door, thus finally achieving the goal it set in 1997. The GM/Treasury Department’s confiscation of my franchises was not the basis of the aforementioned reports I sent to TIGTA and the FBI. However, I believe that the TARP bailout and resulting Treasury Department/GM business partnership combined as the motive for the seemingly politically-motivated TIGTA/FBI cover-ups that would come in 2010-2012. The negative publicity that would result from exposure of the GM/IRS conspired acts would undoubtedly be damaging to the image of those involved with the TARP bailout. From the beginning of the GM bailout in June 2009, the Obama Administration’s controversial “saving” of GM (at huge taxpayer expense) was considered to be a major issue, either positively or negatively, for the reelection campaign of President Obama. An Obama campaign slogan later developed, “Osama Bin Laden is dead and General Motors is alive.”
A brief overview of the unbelievable story appears below, and a document-supported chronological history is presented in other sections of this web site.
Overview of History
After twenty-nine years in business, on November 30, 2009 I completed the painful process of closing Signer Buick-Cadillac as a result of GM’s termination of my franchises along with hundreds of other targeted franchises in the United States at the time GM filed bankruptcy on June 1, 2009. My franchises technically remained in effect until October 31, 2010, after which GM ordered the sign to be removed from my property on November 15, 2010.
An hour after the truck carrying my GM sign drove away, the cover was taken off the awaiting “Cadillac” sign above the service entrance to the GM-owned former Saturn facility two doors down the street, thus signifying the opening of Fremont Cadillac-GMC-Buick. Subsequently, a temporary cover displaying the name of the new dealership was placed over the Saturn sign at the front of the lot. These signs are shown below.
This new dealership was the result of GM’s awarding of my Buick and Cadillac franchises (and GMC that it repeatedly denied me) to former Saturn dealer Inder Dosanjh, a member of GM’s Minority Dealer Development Program. Mine was the eighth, and GMC from defunct Fremont Pontiac-GMC was the ninth, East Bay GM dealership Mr. Dosanjh had acquired since April 2008 in a GM-supported, mysterious and unprecedented spending spree of dizzying speed. The first seven dealerships in this instant empire, three of which Mr. Dosanjh closed down within months, were purchased in a fourteen month period ending in May 2009 as General Motors was plummeting toward bankruptcy.**
As GM’s terminations of dealers like me were supported by the U. S. Treasury Department’s Presidential Task Force on the Auto Industry at the time of the June 2009 $50 billion TARP bailout, this legalized confiscation of my business for the benefit of a favored, GM/Treasury-funded, person is an action that one would not believe could happen even in a corrupt third world country, let alone in the United States of America. These unconscionable actions were among those that I believe that the aforementioned TIGTA and FBI cover-ups were designed to keep quiet in the 2010-2012 pre-election period. In 2010 and 2011, class action suits were filed against the United States federal government by terminated GM and Chrysler dealers claiming that the Obama Administration violated the U. S. Constitution in terminating dealers’ franchises. A Wall Street Journal article describing the lawsuits may be viewed here, and the most recent GM plaintiff brief filed May 9, 2013 may be viewed here.
The engineering of demise: As despicable as the aforementioned theft was, it represents only a footnote in the final chapter of GM’s adversarial, and often corrupt*, actions with me for nearly two decades. My story is one of illogical business decisions imposed by GM while it ruthlessly engineered the demise of a dedicated career-long GM dealer who happened to be in the path of the automaker’s local market takeover plan. It was my disinterest in selling my franchises to GM that provided the motive for GM to use the IRS as one of its weapons in a multi-pronged harassment strategy to induce my exit, as there was no legal basis for doing so.*
After my many years of superior performance and consistently excellent factory relations, in the early 1990’s GM initiated actions that denied me opportunities that would have been mutually beneficial, and evolved into its intense efforts to induce my exit beginning in 1997 to achieve factory control of its Newark dealerships. GM’s Newark actions were concurrent with a larger, but similar, initiative in Southern California’s San Fernando Valley. This groundbreaking initiative included GM’s funding of dealerships it would take over, while designating a chosen dealer operator to run them. GM’s San Fernando Valley takeover was met with fierce opposition from from dealers and the California Motor Car Dealers Association due to unfair advantages factory-owned stores would have over privately-capitalized neighboring dealers. The dealers’ opposition eventually resulted in new laws to prevent GM’s factory takeover structure.
As new vehicle dealers like me own independent businesses with legally protected territories, for GM’s plan to work, targeted dealers must be willing to sell. GM initially attempted to persuade me to sell my hard-earned business voluntarily. When I declined, it resorted to using subversive force.
The unbelievable story is extremely complex, but it could possibly be summarized in a few general plots:
- GM refusal to support my relocation to the Fremont Auto Mall; GM strong-arms me to Newark instead (pre-factory takeover attempt): GM’s Auto Mall rejection was despite the five years and $160,000 I had invested from 1987 to 1992 in this complicated multi-party project I co-developed with nearly all Fremont dealers, the City of Fremont, and the land seller. Instead, GM used strong-armed tactics to coerce me into relocating to its illogical, yet higher priced, site in neighboring Newark where I would be isolated from the dominant Fremont Auto Mall’s high volume dealers. GM’s actions left me virtually no choice but to succumb to its increasing pressure and threats, and thus build a new facility in Newark against my will and relocate there in 1995.
- Buick 90+% national sales decline engineered by GM; GM denies me GMC: GM’s planned long-term phase-out of Buick (salvaged by GM at the last minute in its bankruptcy due to Buick’s recent sales success in China) was accompanied by its repeatedly denying me the Pontiac-GMC franchises needed to restore dealership viability as GM shifted its emphasis to trucks. GM’s first denial of an eventual four between 1991 and 2009, none of which were related to dealership performance, was my 1991 purchase of DiGiulio Pontiac-GMC with plans to relocate the brands to the Fremont Auto Mall with Buick and Cadillac, but in separate showrooms.
- GM’s targeting of Newark market for factory takeover: This subversive plan led to GM’s ruthless and unjustified late 1997 removal of Newark’s “Fremont Pontiac-Olds-GMC” dealer. He promptly filed suit against GM, and continued to operate until reaching settlement effective January 1, 1998. On January 2, 1998, outside picketers appeared, I believe instigated by GM, in front of my dealership and marched non-stop for eight months while GM repeatedly urged me to sell to it. After GM’s appointed three different operators over the years, the Pontiac-GMC dealership failed and closed in January 2009, yet GM continued, without cause, to deny me the two brands. GM was withholding the Newark GMC franchise (Pontiac division ended with GM’s bankruptcy) in order to give it to its latest favored dealer, Inder Dosanjh, when it gave him the franchises it took from me, as noted above.
- GM’s 2005 secret plan to implement without me the same Fremont Auto Mall Buick-Pontiac-GMC-Cadillac plan it once denied me, accompanied by GM harassment to induce my exit: Recognizing the fact that nearly all other local franchises had relocated to the Fremont Auto Mall as I, in the early 1990′s, had informed them would occur, GM secretly decided to relocate its three Newark dealerships there. In early 2005, before I learned of its secret Auto Mall plan, GM intensified its efforts to acquire my franchises by having many of its employees urge me to sell. My continued disinterest in selling was then met with GM’s secret implementation of multiple unconscionable conspired actions to harass me into conceding to its wishes, which began immediately after a secret April 13, 2005, internal GM e-mail series outlining a conspired scheme to induce my exit.* The financially and emotionally damaging events, for which I have provided extensive documented proof elsewhere on donsigner.com, included the following:
- 2005: Malicious GM warranty audit, unauthorized by GM home office
- 2005: IRS audit on dealership corporation, the first ever
- 2006: GMAC defamatory false message to auctions, kept secret from me
- 2006: GMAC audit for secret illegal GM/GMAC dealership financial information sharing scheme
- 2007-2008: IRS audit on my personal return, the first ever
Attempt to recover damages: In October 2005, after the warranty and IRS audits, I learned by accident of GM’s nearly year-old Fremont Auto Mall plan from then Newark Saturn dealer John Cross. By 2006, it had become apparent that the actions GM imposed upon me over many years had cost me many millions of dollars due to GM’s engineering of the Buick collapse, accompanied by its groundlessly denying me Pontiac-GMC necessary for viability, and then its destroying the value of my Newark facility through its planned abandonment of Newark. After consideration of all factors, in October 2006, in an attempt to amicably settle the issue and be fairly compensated, I offered GM an eight figure amount I would accept as settlement. In response, GM initially pleaded with me not to sue. GM senior management then considered my settlement offer, but rejected it in January 2007, thus forcing me to file suit against GM and GMAC in February 2007.
In March 2007, GM made me a mid-seven figure settlement offer, which was unacceptable considering my damages. In April 2007, GM filed a motion to dismiss my suit, which was followed by the judge’s upholding of eight counts going forward to trial. The judge retired in August 2008. In May 2009, after 27 months of expensive preparation for a trial scheduled to begin July 20, GM was mysteriously able to get the new judge to grant a disturbing and extremely rare summary judgment dismissal of all eight counts, shocking my and many other attorneys, as well as a retired judge I later mentioned it to. This action denied me my right to present my case to a jury, which I believe would have led to a mid-eight-figure jury award, and set a precedent for other similarly damaged dealers across the country. Thus, the judge’s action could potentially have saved GM hundreds of millions of dollars and extensive negative publicity. While I am confident an appeal would have reversed the bizarre dismissal, I did not pursue it due to GM’s bankruptcy filing in June 2009 that left it nothing to pay an award. The new GM currently operating is a different corporation.
Treasury Department conducts cover-up of GM/IRS collusion: In June 2010, I filed a complaint with the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration (TIGTA,) the Treasury Department’s office that investigates IRS fraud, waste, and abuse. My complaint contained overwhelming document-supported evidence that GM instigated the aforementioned 2005 and 2007-2008 IRS audits as elements of its conspired harassment strategy to induce my exit, and furthermore that the IRS manipulated the outcome in order to financially damage me. (In October 2010, following my long-term intense efforts contesting the IRS’s additional tax assessment in the 2008 audit, the IRS conceded it was wrong and refunded me $121,639 including interest.)
Following the June 2010 TIGTA complain, my subsequent multiple attempts at learning the status of the TIGTA investigation proved fruitless. In June 2011 I obtained internal TIGTA file documents that clearly state that TIGTA did not investigate my allegations. Some TIGTA internal documents contain false statements that “justified” non-investigation, an action that is eerily similar to the judge’s denying me my right to a trial in 2009. As TIGTA’s actions further confirm to me the GM/IRS collusion, in August and September 2011, in staged succession leaving time for each addressee to take corrective action before I informed the next level, I sent certified letters describing my observation of a TIGTA cover-up to Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration J. Russell George, then Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner, then finally, President Obama. I received U. S. Postal Service confirmation of delivery to the addressees, but I received no response from any of them.
FBI refuses to investigate TIGTA cover-up: Since the Treasury Department’s fraud department itself committed fraud, in September 2011 I reported my document-supported observations of a TIGTA cover-up to the FBI, whose agents initially informed me that I had reported it to the right people and referred my allegations to the FBI’s White Collar Crime Division. As my subsequent status inquiries went unanswered, in January 2012, I sent certified letters to FBI Director Robert Mueller and U. S. Attorney General Eric Holder. (In my September 2011 letter to President Obama, I stated that I had reported the TIGTA cover-up to the FBI.) As with the TIGTA letters, I received U. S. Postal Service confirmation of delivery to the addressees, but no responses.
I furnished copies of my correspondence to TIGTA and the FBI to Congressman Pete Stark and Senator Barbara Boxer. They each sent inquiries on my behalf, first to TIGTA in 2010, and then to the FBI in 2012. Both agencies replied to the legislators with letters that are clearly consistent with a cover-up. My subsequent furnishing to the Congressman and Senator of TIGTA file documents proving a cover-up was met with their responses that there was nothing they could do about it. In summary, neither TIGTA nor the FBI denied any of my allegations; they simply made the complaints go away quietly.
Cover-ups protect President Obama: As mentioned above, GM and the Treasury Department have been business partners since June 2009 by way of the controversial $50 billion taxpayer-funded TARP bailout. I have long believed that the cover-up actions of TIGTA and the FBI were done to prevent exposure of the aforementioned atrocities that would reflect negatively on President Obama due to his Treasury Department TARP bailout of GM, not to mention the damaging effect on both GM and the IRS. In May 2013, a series of scandals emerged in Washington pointing to politically-motivated actions to protect the image, or reduce the effectiveness of political adversaries, of President Obama in the time leading up to the 2012 election. The first three of these scandals were the IRS targeting of conservative organizations, the dissemination of false portrayal of the Benghazi terrorist attack, and the subpoenaing of journalist phone records. While the IRS harassment I received was for a different, although no less despicable, reason, the pre-election cover-ups were clearly for the same reason. But in my case, I have a document trail of nearly everything and those involved, as well as proof of top government officials’ knowledge, including that of President Obama.
Two East Bay GM dealers file fraud and racketeering claims against GM and Dosanjh: On February 25, 2013, two other nearby former East Bay (Dublin and Livermore) General Motors dealers jointly filed a lawsuit against General Motors, Ally Financial (formerly GMAC,) Inder Dosanjh, his company, California Automotive Retailing Group, Inc., and three GM and Ally employees. Inder Dosanjh is the dealer to whom GM gave my franchises after they were taken from me. The two plaintiff dealers claim that GM, GMAC/Ally, and Dosanjh conspired to drive them out of business, one before and one after GM’s bankruptcy. The February 25 complaint, which may be viewed here, alleges various fraud and conspiracy actions by the defendants, including racketeering based on alleged kickbacks from Mr. Dosanjh to GM employees who were involved in the creation of Mr. Dosanjh’s empire and the accompanying engineering of the demise of targeted East Bay dealers.
Fremont Cadillac-GMC-Buick relocation: After Inder Dosanjh acquired the franchises GM took from me, GM reportedly gave him approximately 3.6 acres of land free, or nearly free, in the Fremont Auto Mall. In 2007, GM paid approximately $5,300,000 for that acreage. In April 2013, Fremont Cadillac-Buick-GMC relocated from Newark into the new Fremont Auto Mall facility, although it was still under construction. With this relocation, GM has now come full circle in implementing the exact Fremont Auto Mall multi-franchise plan I proposed, and it rejected, in the early 1990′s, while destroying my business and the value of my GM-induced Newark facility in the process. It should be noted that in calendar years 2011 and 2012, Mr. Dosanjh’s Newark Cadillac sales volume ranked dead last among all Bay Area Cadillac dealers, and Buick volume ranked next to last among Buick dealers.
Financial and emotional damage from GM’s actions: From the time that GM selected me to establish Fremont’s first ever Buick dealership in 1980, and first Cadillac dealership in 1990, I proudly operated a successful and highly reputable business into which I invested my heart and soul, as well as all of my capital. The business was my livelihood, my lifestyle, my identity in the community, and my primary source of self-esteem. My loyal employees and customers were my family. All of that ended with GM’s ruthless action that destroyed everything I had ever worked for, as well as the careers of my employees who averaged thirteen years tenure. It is hard to imagine how those in General Motors and the U. S. Treasury Department who engineered this destruction can live with themselves.
The movie script: A comprehensive chronological account of GM’s misguided and vicious actons imposed on me appear under the Dealership History tab at the top of this donsigner.com website. In addition, this section refers to links to Expanded Details listed in the right column of the website, which contain links to extensive documentation supporting the story that would otherwise seem unbelievable. As the story is quite complex with many overlapping “subplots,” I suggest that readers first review the History Timeline (Excel file) (PDF file) in order to aid comprehension of the stranger-than-fiction story, which has prompted many people to encourage me to have a movie made.
I welcome questions and comments, which I will hold in strict confidence. Please send e-mail to email@example.com.
* It is my opinion only that GM exhibited corruption and was the instigator of the damaging acts, some of which included conspired outsiders. However, this opinion is based on overwhelming documented evidence presented on donsigner.com.
** Mr. Dosanjh’s East Bay GM dealerships acquired since April 2008 include:
1. Saturn of Oakland (April 2008 - Closed April 2008. Purchased and closed simultaneously.)
2. Saturn of Fremont (in Newark) (April 2008 - Closed January 2009.)
3. Hayward Chevrolet (October 2008 - Closed August 2009.)
4. Dublin Chevrolet-Cadillac (October 2008 - Present. Formerly Crown.)
5. Fremont Chevrolet (January 2009 - Present. Formerly Central.)
6. Dublin Buick-GMC (April 2009 - Present. Formerly Dublin Buick-Pontiac-GMC closed by previous owner.)
7. Concord Chevrolet (May 2009 - Present. Formerly Fitzpatrick.)
8. Fremont Cadillac-GMC-Buick (November 2010 - Present. Buick & Cadillac from Signer Buick-Cadillac stolen from me by GM)
9. Fremont Cadillac-GMC-Buick (November 2010 - Present. GMC from Fremont Pontiac-GMC closed by previous owner in January 2009.)
10. Groth Brothers Chevrolet (asset purchase) in Livermore (October 2011 - Closed October 2011. Purchased and closed simultaneously.)
(11. In addition to East Bay points, Mr. Dosanjh acquired Honolulu Buick-GMC-Cadillac in November 2009.)